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Octopus Stranded, Rescued in Rare N. Oregon Coast Sighting at Cannon Beach

Published 06/08/23 at 8:01 p.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Octopus Stranded, Rescued in Rare N. Oregon Coast Sighting at Cannon Beach

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(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – A curious and heartwarming situation on the north Oregon coast took place early Wednesday when the Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP) in Cannon Beach had to assist an octopus stranded on land. Not only was this a rare sighting that attracted a large crowd, but it was a lovely bit of interaction between human and watery beast. (Photo courtesy Ben Meek / HRAP)

It was about 9:30 a.m., said HRAP communications coordinator Mylasia Miklas, when they received a call about a giant Pacific octopus stuck around Haystack Rock. He was in that small, sandy area between the main Haystack and the Needles, floundering around, trying to get back out. This was something unusual, she told Oregon Coast Beach Connection.

“We don't usually see that,” Miklas said. “It's pretty rare to see a giant Pacific octopus, so having a sighting or a situation like this is definitely a once in a lifetime sort of thing.”

Very quickly two HRAP members hit the sands: Lisa Habecker, who is volunteer and education coordinator; and Jolene Magee, lead rocky shore interpreter. They went from science educators to rescuers.

“They ended up going over there and assessing the situation, and they noticed that the octopus was kind of getting pushed up the shore by waves and was having a bit of a difficult time trying to get down to deeper water,” Miklas said. “And at the time when this guy was spotted, we didn't really know how long it had been out of the water. Pacific octopuses can live out of the water for about 20 to 30 minutes, so since we didn't know how long he was actually on the sand, we definitely wanted to work as quickly as possible to get him back into deeper water.”

Courtesy Lisa Habecker / HRAP

Habecker and Magee took a few moments – it truly wasn't long – and assessed the situation, watched the waves and did a bit of crowd control. This was, of course, one of those digital capture moments on the Oregon coast for the public.

The pair wound up getting a sandwich board to try and nudge him back into the waves.

“And then that didn't really end up working too well, so instead they kind of used their legs as a kind of a blockade and gently gave the octopus at least two good little pushes, and he was able to make it back to the deeper water,” Miklas said.

A lot of times, situations like these on the Oregon coast or Washington coast indicate a sea creature is distressed in some way, unhealthy or hurt. Yet that didn't seem to be the case here, Miklas said, revealed by a trippy bit of cephalopod science.

“He wasn't really distressed,” Miklas said. “It just kind of seems like he got pushed in by the waves and was having a difficult time trying to make it back out to deeper water. Pacific octopuses possess the ability to change colors when they're stressed or in distress, or showing aggression. And when our two interpreters were working to get him back into the water, he didn't change colors or show any signs of aggression or distress towards the interaction.”

In other words, the little octo-armed guy was rather chill about it. They are extremely smart, so it's entirely possible, if not likely, the octopus knew someone was trying to help it.

All in all, the entire interaction took about four or five minutes. It wasn't long before the rescue was successful and the mysterious visitor to Haystack Rock was off on its merry way back into the deep.

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Photos below courtesy Seaside Aquarium

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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